I don't know if you guys care to read it or not, but I have written a break down of today's game and I think it explains fairly well why we will beat Florida later on. It's long...
A Look at the Alabama vs. Florida SEC Championship Game Matchup
The upcoming SEC showdown with Alabama and Florida will determine ½ of the teams that end up at the big dance in Miami. As I have mentioned in numerous other posts, nearly all of the sports analysts are not giving Alabama a prayer against Florida. I find this somewhat odd as Alabama is the consensus #1 team in the country, yet Florida is (at the time of this writing) a 10 point favorite going into the game. Does this not mean that Florida should be ranked #1? Regardless, it is what it is. Let’s just take a look at what the Gator / Tide matchup brings to the gridiron.
The statistics used below do not include players that contribute on occasion. An example of intentional omission might be a rushing TD scored by someone other than a starting player or leading receiver.
Tebow Verses John Parker Wilson
Total Passing yards
Tebow – 2299 yards
JPW – 1909 yards
Tebow – 65%
JPW – 58.6%
Tebow – 25
JPW – 9
Tebow – 12 TD
JPW – 5 TD
When you look at the above numbers, and consider Florida’s propensity to throw the ball, the most glaring statistic is in passing touchdowns. Tebow has thrown for 16 more touchdowns than JPW over the course of the 2008 season. This, in itself, is a large number, but when you consider the difference in playing style and game schemes, I would expect nothing less. Florida’s offense is designed to score quickly and often; while Alabama’s offense is designed to chew time off of the clock and keep opposing offenses off of the field. Both offenses are very efficient in achieving their respective goals. When I first looked at these numbers, I was surprised to see that Tebow had only thrown for 400 more yards than did JPW. This is a direct result of Florida’s newly acquired running game. I’ll look at this a little closer later on. I took the time to lay these stats out for one reason and that is: THOSE OF YOU WHO KEEP WHINING ABOUT JPW’S PERFORMANCE THIS SEASON ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION!!!! JPW has been more than adequate in his performance as the field general for the Crimson Tide. He isn’t required to win these ball games through the air. He isn’t required to pull the ball down and run for 100 yards per game. All he is required to do is complete a few possession passes and keep defenses honest by throwing the ball down field every now and then. The rest of his game consists of making the proper reads (which he does very well) and allowing his O-line and Running backs to do all of the dirty work for him. While I would be foolish to say that JPW is of the same ilk as Tim Tebow athletically; I am comfortable saying that JPW plays HIS game just as well as Tim Tebow plays his. Advantage Florida.
Florida Rushing Verses Alabama Rushing
Rushing YardsFlorida – 2228 yards
Rainey – 654
Harvin – 538
Demps – 529
Tebow – 507
Alabama – 2266 yards
Coffee – 1235
Ingram - 681
Upchurch – 350
Florida – 31
Alabama – 29
As is obvious above there is not a big difference in rushing yards or touchdowns between the two teams. Again carries made by players that do not contribute on a regular basis (IE: Terry Grant) have been intentionally omitted. When looking at this, it is obvious that the majority of Florida’s blow out victories are accomplished through the air. One can only assume that the reason Alabama is not being given any chance in the SECCG is simply because of Florida’s ability to put up a lot of points. While this way of thinking is not logical, it is understandable. Big Plays through the air will garner any team a lot of attention while playing smash mouth football will not. History has proven that Alabama’s smash mouth teams of yesteryear should not have been overlooked, but they always were. I see no reason this year’s team should be overlooked, but as usual, they are.
Now, as a college football fan and not an Alabama fan, I can see very easily where this Alabama team could (and most likely will) shut down Florida’s high powered offense. The Alabama defense is athletic, fast, mean, disciplined, focused and full of ill intent. There is absolutely no finesse that can be associated with the style of play this defense brings to every game. They hit hard, they run fast and they do not think they can be beat. They are not cocky, they are confident. They are not scared, they are ready. They are not loose, they are disciplined. They are not going to let Tebow hit Percy Harvin (if he plays, thanks FSU) on that seam route that has been their “money” play all season long. They are not going to be out of position when Tebow and company try to run their smoke and mirrors draw and option plays. They will not over pursue bubble screens and reverses. They will not allow yardage to be gained up the middle. They will not allow Tebow to stand in the pocket and complete his throws without extreme duress. They will not let the Florida receivers make a catch without paying for it in their own blood. They will come after the Gators and in my opinion, if LSU couldn’t slow them down, Florida will not even come close.
Do not get me wrong. I feel sure Alabama is going to be in for the fight of their lives next Saturday. Tebow and the Gators are a head and shoulders above any of the opposition we have faced this season. They are well coached and very athletic all the way around. Their defense does not get the accolades that their offense does, but is very much responsible for many of the Gators blow out wins. They have an uncanny ability to get the Pick 6 and force fumbles that put them way out front very early in ball games. Now, does this mean that their opposition is gift-wrapping some of these 4 touchdown victories for them? I think it does. I’m not sure what FSU did to hand them the game, but I saw with my own eyes Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Vandy and South Carolina (I’m not going to even mention the Citadel) give them points off of turnovers very early on. This did a few things that enabled the Gators to achieve their huge margins of victory. First, it moved the momentum into the Gator’s favor immediately. Secondly, it forced the opposition to immediately abandon their game plan. Lastly, it caused their opposing defenses to tire early on. These three factors contributed heavily to the Gator’s epic run following their loss to Ole Miss (speaking of which, all of the aforementioned factors worked in the Rebels favor instead of Florida’s in that game). Alabama has done a fantastic job all season long of not making mistakes that give football games away. While Coffee has had a case of fumbilitus, his mistakes have not cost us games and the team in general has done a very good job of not giving up turnovers while conversely being very efficient in creating turnovers of their own. If Florida is counting on Alabama making the same mistakes the teams I mentioned above did, they are in for a very rude awakening.
Bama Offensive Line verses Gator Defensive Line
This matchup brings the most physical offensive line in the SEC (if not the country) into a battle with a smaller, but overachieving Florida defensive line. I noticed in the Barn game that the Tiggers started stunting along the defensive front. This is something I have mentioned previously that I expected teams to start doing to us more often since Kentucky had some success against us with it earlier in the season. The stunts I kept expecting to see just did not materialize until the Barn game. When Kentucky did it to us earlier in the year, it gave us some trouble. The Wildcats were able to pressure JPW because our O-line missed some blocking assignments due to the odd angles and movements by the Kentucky hog mollies. So, I spent Saturday after Saturday since the Kentucky game waiting and anticipating this tactic to be used on us. Then, finally, the Barn game arrives and AU comes out and tries it from the start. It didn’t work. AU has a good front 7 and one that I would argue is comparable to Florida’s. They moved people around, showed blitz from the left and actually brought it from the right. They lined up in the gaps then stunted to the inside. They lined up head on then stunted to the outside. They stunted left, right, up the middle, sideways, backwards and finally it became apparent that Bama’s offensive line was not going to have any of it. While I had concerns after the Kentucky game, it became apparent in the AU game that Saban too had noticed Kentucky’s success and had already made the necessary moves to thwart any future teams of achieving that same success. This is pertinent in that I am now not worried about Florida’s numerous looks they are going to give JPW and his offensive line. Florida will try to use speed to outmaneuver Bama’s offensive front and while speed kills, so does a brick wall when hit head on. I am not concerned about Florida harassing JPW too much. Sure there will be a play or two that he gets hurried or that someone misses an assignment, that’s just football, but when it comes right down to it; Florida is overmatched in this group. Advantage Bama.
Bama Defensive Line verses Florida Offensive Line
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “If LSU could not handle our defensive line, Florida is not going to have a chance. Much of Alabama’s success defensively this season rides on the back of Mt. Cody and company. Bama’s two deep depth chart along the defensive line is scary. When Cody comes out, a very capable Chapman steps in. We do not see a drop off in performance while Cody gets a breather. Chapman requires a double team just like Cody does. Then when you consider that our rush ends often end up drawing a double team as well (1st or 2nd team), it puts the rest of the Alabama defense in a position to make plays. The ability to get intense pressure on an opposing QB when only rushing three or four allows Bama to drop 7 or 8 guys back in coverage. This is a defensive coach’s dream, especially when facing a spread attack. I expect Florida to have extreme issues if they do not keep some people in to help out in pass protection. The talking heads always refer to Bama as blitzing a lot with this defense and I do not think this is completely accurate. Often what they refer to as a blitz is in actuality a 4 man rush (3 down lineman and a linebacker). Granted Bama does sometimes blitz from the corner or safety positions, but a lot of what is commonly referred to as a blitz is not. But I digress… Back to the subject at hand, The Florida Gators are going to have their hands full with Bama’s defensive line. I think the push that Bama will be able to get up front will create quite a ripple in Tebows normally smooth waters. Advantage Bama.
Bama Running Backs verses Florida Linebackers
Normally when looking at running backs, one would compare them to the opposing defense’s linebackers. In Bama’s case, it is almost pointless to do this as I do not think it really matters which Alabama running back is in the game. The offensive line will open holes for whoever may be asked to tote the rock. Some might argue that while Coffee, Ingram and Upchurch have been productive, Grant has not. To this end, I suggest that while Grant hasn’t done much for the Tide this year, I suspect the reason has more to do with the number of reps he has been getting than anything. Grant obviously has not done enough on the practice field to get the carries we were accustomed to seeing out of him last season. His low number of carries most likely results in Grant not being able to get into the groove. I suspect that if he were allowed more carries, we would see a dramatic increase in his production. I have been highly impressed with Coffee’s work ethic this season. He looks to have added speed, agility and vision since last season. He runs hard and rarely goes down on first contact. He is fleet of foot and is looking more and more like the complete package as the season rolls on. If he can overcome his history of fumbles, he very well could end up playing on Sundays in the future. Ingram has confused me this season. At times he looks amazing and at others he looks plain ole ordinary. I know he had a stretch of games there when he was playing with a sprained MCL, but since then he has still been up and down. He looked average against MSU, but looked fantastic against Aubarn. I would most likely chalk his inconsistencies up to youth and would expect to see nothing but improvement from him as his time spent at the Capstone lengthens.Upchurch may actually be finished for the year. If so, we may get a chance to see Grant get enough carries to prove my point about getting into a groove. Upchurch has been productive when given a chance with a limited number of carries; I would think this is the reason that he is often seen as the 3rd back as opposed to Grant. Upchurch doesn’t need a lot of carries to get into a groove; he is already in it on his first one. Upchurch could have had a glittering career at Alabama if not for being so injury prone. What a shame that is.Because of the continued consistent play of our offensive line, I think our running backs will continue to excel even against a stout Florida defense. Advantage Alabama.
Florida Running Backs verses Alabama Linebackers
Florida’s running backs play by committee much like Alabama’s. There are 3 guys (Rainey, Harvin and Demps) who have accounted for the majority of the Florida rushes. Then, there is Tebow. While he hasn’t rushed for quite as many yards as the other running backs this season, he still has over 500 yards on the ground. He is a threat no matter how you look at it. He throws well on the run. He runs well. He is big, strong and tough. He is a Heisman Trophy Winner and very well may be again. He has to be accounted for. This is where Rolando McClain comes in. While there may be instances that Hightower is required to become Tebow’s shadow, I suspect it will be primarily McClain’s duty to become Tebow’s second skin. I like this match up. If our defensive line continues to do its job, McClain’s task of shadowing Tebow will become much less troublesome. McClain is faster than Tebow and definitely carries a wider mean streak than him. While Bama is probably fast enough at the inside linebacker positions to keep up with the Gators at the running back position, Bama’s outside linebackers are going to be key to the success of shutting down the Florida running game. I believe our defensive line will take care of Florida’s up the middle calls, but the options and tosses are going to require stellar play by our linebackers. The good thing here is that Alabama’s line backing corps are well versed in the fundamentals of the game. Meaning that they are always in position, take the correct angles, hit hard, tackle well and have great field vision. Florida may run an option or two, but getting past our linebacker group is going to be a tough row to hoe. Nobody has run on Alabama all season long and I don’t look for Florida to change that. We have faced more intense running games (IE: LSU, UGA, Clemson and Ole Miss) this season, so why does everyone think we are suddenly going to just lie down and let Florida run wild? Advantage Alabama.
Alabama Receivers verses Florida Defensive Backs
I have discussed this area with a friend who has been stuck in an identity crisis for a long time. Sadly, I see no clear resolution to his problem. He graduated from both schools, so this matchup is tough on him. Anyway, he is of the opinion that Alabama does not have a dangerous set of receivers other than Julio Jones. I completely and totally disagree with him 100%. Granted, Julio has become a favorite target of JPW, but we definitely have a stable of receivers that can do major damage to a secondary that I think is overrated. The problem is, I don’t expect us to be in a position any different from any other game we have been in this season. The need to throw will be secondary. Should I be wrong on what the game plan actually ends up being, I expect we will see catches by Jones, McCoy, Hanks, Stover, McCall and Smelley. Every one of the names I just mentioned are serious threats and have all shown moments of greatness at one time or another this season. Regardless of my friend’s opinion that our passing game is inept, I think it is simply not needed. We are a run first team and we use the passing game to keep opposing defenses honest. I expect Julio to draw double coverage and I expect the Gators to stack the box. This means we will have single coverage elsewhere on the field and I bet a hay penny that we will take advantage of this single coverage matchup early on. I don’t think it matters who ends up with single coverage as all of the receivers are capable of doing damage. I mentioned that I thought Florida’s secondary was overrated. Well, I do. They have created tons of interceptions this season, but a whole lot (and I mean a whole, whole lot) of them were simply horrible, horrible throws by the opposing QB. I have noticed while reviewing some of Florida’s games that their secondary is really fast, but they also have a bad tendency to be out of position. On top of that, they also have shown themselves to have too much faith in their speed. They have been burned by going for the pick instead of making the play. The problem is that none of their opponents have been able to capitalize on their mistakes. I believe such mistakes made against Alabama will result in points for the Crimson Tide. Since we do not have the numbers to back up my argument regarding how adept our receivers are, I am forced to call this one a push. While I tend to think that we will be able to take advantage of an undisciplined Florida secondary should the need arise, I must concede that we do not know as we have yet to be forced into a situation that requires a high number of passes. Advantage Push.
Florida Receivers verses Alabama Defensive Backs
With the chance that Percy Harvin will not play or at the very least will be playing injured, Florida’s receiving group will take a big hit on “Parker’s Overall Scale of Greatness.” With a Harvin at 100%, I still think Florida’s receivers only good; not great. Harvin is the only receiver they have that I would put in the same class as other upper echelon receivers (IE: Jones, Crabtree, etc.). The rest of their guys are good. They make some plays and they miss some plays. They are not the greatest off the line or with their blocking assignments down field. They fit the mold nicely of the rest of Florida’s offense in that they are definitely a finesse bunch. They are not physical and I think this could spell some trouble for them when they take the field Saturday. Alabama’s secondary is by far the best secondary in the SEC if not the country. They are a big, fast and physical bunch that enjoys hitting people. They like to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage. They let their safeties roam. They are not afraid of man coverage. The Alabama secondary has Jackson who is the least thrown on corner in the SEC (that should tell you something). They have Arenas who plays about 3 feet taller than he is. They have Woodall and Johnson who will flat out level a ball carrier, blocker or any other person who happens to get in their way. They are very deep from a depth chart perspective. They play smart and are very rarely ever out of position. They are great in run support. They are fantastic in disrupting timing routes which could very possibly make Tebow’s 65% completion percentage drop considerably. I think this Alabama secondary causes Florida a lot of trouble Saturday. Advantage Alabama.
The special teams for both Alabama and Florida are fantastic. I’m not sure where to give the advantage at all on this one. Both are dangerous on kickoff and punt returns. Both are doing well in kick coverage situations. Both have made blunders on occasion. So, on the whole…this is a push. Advantage Push.
Prediction and Summary
This game has the potential to end in any conceivable way. If Bama comes out and punches Florida in the mouth like they are capable of, it could be a blow out win for Bama. If Florida comes out and forces a couple of turnovers early on, it could be a blowout Florida win. The most likely scenario? They both come out and play well. If both teams are successful in running their game plans, this could end up a really close game. I expect Florida will score quickly, while Alabama will take their normal long, time consuming drives. If both teams play mistake free, it could come down to who has the ball last. Here’s the thing, neither team will play mistake free. Both teams have too many players capable of making plays that can change the outcome of the game. Both teams have coaches that are good enough to make things tough for the other one. Both teams expect to win. This is your 2008 National Championship Game. This is also eerily similar to the 1992 Championship Game. A lot of talk about the Florida school, the talking heads giving absolutely no chance of a Bama win, and finally a beating of gigantic proportions that was thrown on that over-hyped Florida team. I’ll bet there are a couple of ex-Hurricanes (IE: Lamar Thomas, Gino Toretta) that could see this so called upset as a distinct possibility. I like this set up. I like the way Bama matches up. I’m calling it here…
Bama 28Florida 17